Friday, December 28, 2012

Restaurant Reviews

I've been trying to enter reviews in "Opinionated About Dining" — well, because it's fun and I was hoping to earn a gift card. But their system seems to be having a glitch, so I thought I would enlighten you all! Maybe I'll still get the gift card (or you will take me out to lunch...)

Al Vento
Consistently good food at very reasonable prices. Sometimes the plethora of discount options can be confusing ("can I use the Groupon with the prixe fix option?"), so just skip on the planning and go for reasonable food with fine service. Avoid the patio though — it's kind of hot and soulless. Don't miss the olive oil cake!

Have been going here more lately to support them during University Avenue construction. Really lovely atmosphere, and I appreciate the commitment to sustainable food. That said, the meal sometimes feels lacking *something,* — maybe I need to get to know the dessert menu better.

I know this place is the darling of Minnesota dining, but I say "meh." Perhaps too convinced of their own popularity, I find portions small, seasonings so-so, and service rushed. And don't even get me started about the wild inconsistency of their truck!

Blue Door
Consistently good food (and great beer!) And what's not to like about tater tots? The only downside is that you have to eat at truly weird times (like lunch at 2:48pm), in order to get a seat. Though this *should* be kid-friendly due to the food, it's not due to the crowding.

La Grolla
Not a trendy, flash in the pan kind of place, but instead consistently good food and a lovely atmosphere (and one of the best patios in the Twin Cities!) Large appetizers, so beware of getting filled up in advance. Very reasonable pricing, especially at lunch, and a romantic date night venue. Try to talk them into making the gnocchi with 4-cheese sauce, though you may have to diet for a few days afterwards....

Red Stag
Another sustainable, consistently good place (and the easy parking is a nice plus.) An especially greta place for a lunch meeting, where the menu is reasonably priced and they don't rush you. I dream of the lobster. Plus extra props for the summer block party!

Mai Village
In all the buzz this place has had recently about possible closure due to light rail disruption, there has been a lot of recent backlash. I have to agree with many that the food is fine, but not amazing, and significantly more costly than nearby, hole in the wall Asian places. But the lovely interior really is worth it, especially with kids.

I always end up liking Brasa more than I think I will. As a non-red-meat-eater, they did not have much to offer me in the beginning, but they have expanded that (especially on Grand Ave.) I have heard good things about their catering as well. But somehow, the ala carte nature can mean you have to keep a close eye on the bill.

Ok, well any bakery is bound to be good, right? But Rustica would win more points with me if they didn't overcook all their baked goods. The first bite of the crusty treat is nice, but it grows old fast.

St. Paul Cheese Shop
The cheese is delicious, but do yourself a favor — but the cheese, and some bread, and go home and make a sandwich. It's a chilly, drab place to dine in, and the sandwiches are rather expensive for what they are. Still, their blue cheese — mmmmmmm.....

Oh, how I love Tilia. The perfect food, the changing specials, the delicious breakfasts, the perfectly satisfying meals. The lovely toy box for kids. The warm coziness of the space. Unfortunately, everyone ELSE loves Tilia too, so we never end up going because of the wait.

Famous Dave’s
Remember when this place was new and super big? Everyone would go for the big plastic bowls of meh barbecue and feel all in touch with their inner farmer? Well, it's no longer new, and there are much better places to go for barbecue. Really not worth leaving your grill.

My love of Punch is well-documented on the internet. Sure, the pizza is not for everyone — some really hate the olive oily mess that the inside of the pizza becomes, or the salty blackness of the crust. I, however, love the salty-sweet mix, especially of the margarita pizza. I think we eat here weekly.

This is the kind of restaurant you anticipate more than love. The small plates are lovely, the intimate feel of the room charming, but it always leaves me feeling a little cold, and with a big bill.

Bar la Grassa
There's a reason this place is so popular and keeps packing them in. From the delicious pasta, to the variety of foods, to the great service, to the see and be seen atmosphere, it's still one of Minneapolis' top places.

If I could eat every meal at Heartland, I would. Out of all the places that have a great commitment to local dining and sustainable food, Heartland tops the list. The prix fixe menu always feels like an occasion, but if you don't have enough time for that, there's always the bar.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Where We Are Really Broken

Like everyone else I know, I can't stop looking at my daughter today. I can't stop wanting to hold her close. I can't stop the nagging worry about taking her out, to places she knows and loves, because something might happen to her. And if that's how I feel, I can't even imagine what it feels like to be closer to the Newtown tragedy, or god forbid, someone involved with it. That level of searing pain is just beyond comprehension.

I respect my friends who are incensed enough by this to focus on gun control, on solving a system that is not working, and I wish them well.

But I will posit that this kind of reform is completely and utterly ineffective unless we take on the much deeper task of healthcare in this country, and by that I mean particularly mental health. Until access to all health resources, including mental health, is free, and easily available, and not stigmatized. Until people throughout the system are trained to realize potential crises, and empowered to take action and assist on them. Until we treat this with the kind of gravity that it deserves.

(these are just my quick thoughts, and I am sure Patrick will have a more eloquent post on it later)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Post I Meant to Write Yesterday

This is the post I wanted to write yesterday, but then I got too caught up in righteous traffic indignation to do so. It's probably a more important post, but less ranty so likely not as fun.

My friend Laura wrote a really brilliant post earlier this week called "In defense of yes." Go ahead and read it, it's short and I will still be here when you get back.

That's why Laura is brilliant. Because she can say, in just a few well-crafted and evocative words, what I have been trying to express.

I've been oft-criticized for how much I take on. For agreeing to do too much. For (sometimes) putting myself out to do something for others. For not saying no.

I've been told, perhaps too often, that "Saying Yes is just saying No to other things."

And sure, often those comments are correct. And of course, I can't say yes to everything. And of course, if I do one thing it means I can't do another.

But I'm going to say this. Every time I agree to sit on a task force, or do a favor for a friend, or even put myself out for a family member — every time I make a meal for someone who is sick, or agree to do a project that I might not have time to do, or even just spend a few minutes doing an extra task, I did consider the equation. I did think about what I have to do to say "yes." And for my community, and my friends, and my family, and especially to teach my daughter to be the kind of leader I want her to be, I often say "yes."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Road Rage

Dear City of Saint Paul,

Anyone who knows me knows that I am fiercely loyal to, and proud of, my city. I extol your merits constantly, and in general I can overlook your issues (such as a lack of single-sort recycling.) But you have messed-up mightily, and you need to make amends.

Yes, it was a Big Storm. Not ridiculously big, but the first one of the year. Sunday everyone snuggled at home in their pajamas and made soup and thought "snow day!" Yesterday, we all knew it would be a little hairy. But TODAY? 48 hours after the snow? You've been ridiculous. I don't honestly remember the road ever as bad as they were today — so slick at intersections that people can't help but slide through, tutted and washboarded in between — and those are the snow emergency routes. The regular streets are 8" deep still in snow.

Various city folks have been making excuses all day, blaming it on the warmth of the roads when it started snowing, the cold that followed the snow, how they are putting out 3x as much salt as usual, blah blah blah. Frankly, I'm not mollified. We are in Minnesota, where it regularly, this time of year, snows and gets cold. Every other municipality around us seems to have gotten their streets plowed. You are making the kind of excuses that people make when they did it all dramatically wrong the first time.

So this is the deal. Fix it. Stop explaining how you are doing all you can do, re-call the snow emergency, and PLOW THE EFFING STREETS.


-  Bethany

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Thankfulness

#16 - For Beaujolais Nouveau — fruity and kool-aidy as it is.

#17 - For a child who believes in Santa.

#18 - For the newspaper. Much as the digital world keeps me up to date, once a week with the Sunday paper is golden. And has coupons.

#19 - For sleep. Wish I got more of it.

#20 - For all those amenities that we take for granted that others don't — food, water, heat, light, communication.

#21 - For our beautiful and gracious home, filled with things we love.

#22 - For an incredible Thanksgiving dinner spent with dear dear friends. It meant so much to us.

Friday, November 16, 2012

This Is Why I Love Finance

At a time when even Twinkies aren't sacrosanct, union-busting seems to be at an all-time high. Here are some fascinating posts by Mary Schaefle on the Minnesota Orchestra's accounting, as based on their publicly-released 990 tax forms.

Now you see why I find what I do so fascinating!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More Grateful

#9 - For Beatrix's wonderful school, and the world she has there.

#10 - For the Winter Street house, as much of a PITA as it is sometimes.

#11 - For Krista, and Vote No pumpkin pie!

#12 - For the beauty that is Saint Paul, and the people who want to save it.

#13 - For free Punch Pizza, on a night it was sorely needed.

#14 - For Soup Night and the people that make it fun.

#15 - For the amazingness that is Give to the Max Day. Watching the generosity unfold every year humbles me, and watching the reaction from the non-profits is equally touching. Over 15 million dollars donated today, folks!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

More Thanks

Because these would be dull if I did them every day.

I'm grateful for:

#4 - Chocolate. Specifically leftover Halloween candy. Especially when I have not eaten lunch.

#5 - Beatrix's music and circus classes. Wonderful communities that give her excellent artistic and collaborative schools.

#6 - The election results.

#7 -  My kindle, and the ability to read easily and voraciously.

#8 - The last bonfire and s'mores of the year with Patrick, Beatrix and Alex tonight.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Truly Protecting Your Vote

I really, truly, hope you go out and vote tomorrow. Even if you and I don't necessarily agree on everything political, our country really only works when everyone participates (see Seth Godin's brilliant blog post from today on that.)

But please understand that voting is the brushing your teeth of the political system. It's the bare minimum of participation. In fact, in twenty-three countries worldwide (including Australia), it's compulsory. By contrast, our national turn-out in 2008 was 62%.

The people I really respect right now are the ones making things happen. The ones on the phone banks, door-knocking, delivering food to the volunteers, doing midnight lit drops. They're the ones that are really making their "votes count."

And even more so, the ones that work between elections. The ones that work in their community, in the schools, in politics, in the arts — in any way they can to make the world a better place. They sit on boards, they teach their kids to donate at holiday drives, they keep up community gardens, they participate in community planning sessions, they escort field trips, they effect legislation, they fundraise, they fix up houses, they make things happen.

I understand that we all have busy lives, and families and work and and and...

No one can do everything all at once. But if you're not pushing yourself, even if only every now and then, to make the world a better place, then the only one who's making your vote "not count" is you.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

30 Days of Thanks

I'm incredibly thankful. And I am late, but hoping to catch up, even if I don't end up posting every day.

Day 1 - I'm thankful for my incredible family.

Day 2 - I'm thankful for sweet pets, which may or may not fit under #1. Mimi, Tiger, Geronimo, and even Belle, I am looking at you.

Day 3 - I'm thankful for new friends, which may be old friends in disguise. yes, that's you, the W family, but covers a lot more too.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Cold Dark

We've hit that time of the year where it's ridiculously difficult to drag myself out of bed in the morning. Somehow, the cold dark 7am of October seems 100x worse than the cold dark mornings of December/January, due the the vagaries of snow and getting used to it and daylight savings time ending and all that.

Until this summer, Beatrix was a truly crappy sleeper, waking up several times a night, and I think my body is still also used to dealing with that. It seems I don't truly fall heavily asleep until 5 or so, which is especially painful on the many mornings when Beatrix wakes up before her "sun light" comes on and she is allowed to get up. Luckily, I have a wonderfully patient husband who gets her settled at those times and then makes coffee.

Still, it doesn't stop me from fantasizing about a "morning nanny" who arrives around 6:30 and deals with Beatrix until 9:00 or something on occasion. Those sleeping-in mornings seem like someone else's life...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

That's Why They Call It "Saint Paul"

Ten years ago today, I was inventorying the bar at Jeune Lune when Sonya Berlovitz rushed in to tell me that Paul Wellstone was dead. "Don't be silly," I remember saying, "you don't die that suddenly from MS." And then I learned about the crash, and left work immediately to go to Judy McLaughlin's house, where we all mourned Paul, and Sheila, Marcia, Tom, Mary, and especially Will.

I was out of the country when Paul was elected, but when I came back, he was the first national-level politician to really affect me. Part of that was his personality — giving out cups of water to runners at the marathon, getting us all to gather around that green bus, consistently listening to people and challenging them to do more at the same time. As much as Paul meant to me personally — and I know I was lucky to have that kind of access to a truly great man — he meant even more to me as a senator who truly represented his constituency.

And his family and staff. Will was so busy working with the campaign that his stories would often get passed on through Judy. Just a few nights before, she had told me that, when they drove Will's car, Paul would consistently wave and gesture to people as they passed. He finally commented that he was so surprised they never waved back — until Will had to break it to him that the windows were tinted and that people could not see in the car.

There are many times now where I think "That never would have happened if Paul was still in the Senate." In so many ways, ten years later it still feels raw, and like it will never be the same.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Consider Yourself

Recently, Patrick and I went to a lunchtime launch event for a new product. Even before the launch, I became a big fan of the product. But I was sadly disappointed by the event itself, and I think there's a lot to learn from it.

The invitation promised a "some delicious food, followed by an overview of ---- from ----, VP of Operations, where he’ll talk about some amazing things we have up our sleeves, and how we will make a mark in the Twin Cities." It was at a lovely venue, the event sounded interesting, I support the product, and even though it's hard to get away in the middle of the day, I thought it would be worth it.

However, once we got there, it was painfully obvious that very little thought had been given to the audience. Several representatives from the company were there, and were genuinely interested in our opinions, but I could see right away that what we said was not what they expected.

Strangely for a noon event, the food was rather minimal — some raw veggies, chips and dip, lemonade and coffee — great cocktail hour food, but not exactly lunch fare. The reps sat down and continued the conversation with us, and were interesting to talk to, but it was also clear they did not know much about the Twin Cities area or market. There were far fewer attendees than apparently expected, and as such there was no presentation, so people sat around awkwardly until they finally decided it must be time to go. And there was nothing really to take away, except a gift card valid for new users only — which (almost by definition) none of the attendees were.

In short, a great new company experienced a major disconnect with their launch event, and I felt bad for them.

How do you avoid this?

1)  Make your event special. No matter how big or small the audience is, make each person feel like the sole reason you were throwing this particular event was to recognize them.

2)  Try to avoid acting surprised if what you hear is different from what you think, and realize what a valuable opportunity that is for you.

3)  Watch the clock. If your event is around a mealtime, people are likely giving up a lunch break, or dinner with their family, or whatever to attend it — make it worth their while. Or, to keep catering costs down, have it at a weird time, and feature some really special food. Had the start time been 2pm, the same raw veggies been cut in flower shapes and the lemonade pink, I guarantee you people would have been more impressed.

4)  Stick with what you tell people, but be flexible. In this situation, a quick "We're not going to do a formal presentation, so that we get more time to talk with each of you individually. But I'm ----, I'm the VP of Operations, and please, I want to get a chance to chat with you"would have given a focus to the afternoon.

5)  Give them a take-away. You don't need to give a swag bag full of liquor and t-shirts (though everyone likes those), but even some kind of brochure or chocolate with your logo or key fob or something to remind them of the event carries your impact much farther than the 90 minutes your guest spent there.

As I said, it's en exciting company and I'll continue to be a fan. But as I walked away this afternoon, I thought of how much more of an event it could have been for all of us.

Monday, October 22, 2012


I've long wanted to try Kiva, because I think the idea of community micro-loans is fascinating. I got a push towards it today, though, after having lunch with Nick from the Minneapolis Foundation and really thinking about leveraging resources.

Tonight, when Beatrix got home, we scanned the pages of loan opportunities. We chose the Philippines, because my friend Merv's family is there, and they were incredibly generous about taking us around when we visited there in the late 1990s. In fact, of all the places I've been, the Philippines remains one of the most fascinating.

Then the debate. Help people buy products for their store? Plant rice? Fish? But as soon a Beatrix saw Sunde, who needed funds to help raise her pigs, we were hooked.

Sunde only needed $125, and I think by now, just a few hours later, she is set. But there are a lot of other people, all over the world, who could use a little help towards their dreams. I am already thinking of loans to several other people in several other countries (Beatrix and I tend to lean towards women, and cute animals).

Want to try yourself? You get your first $25 loan free (and I think I get a credit) with this link:

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Shop Local - Because The Service is Better

Over ten days ago, despondent at the pathetic mom-ness of my closet, I finally called J. Crew to schedule one of their free stylist sessions. The sales assistant who answered the phone gushed "Lauren is the best. She'll call or email you right away to schedule."

I'm still waiting.

Meanwhile, I stopped with Beatrix at Victoria Crossing today because she requested a cookie from Bread and Chocolate after circus class. While she ate an m&m cookie as big as her head, I browsed the racks at Hot Mama. After I had had a few moments to look around, a lovely young lady came over, introduced herself as the manager of the store, complimented my daughter, and asked if I needed any help. When I related my closet woes, she immediately said "Can I pull some things for you to try?"

Since Beatrix was with me, I didn't have time, but she asked my sizes, gave me her name, mentioned another employee that could also help, told me the best times to come in, and wrote it all down on a card for me. She encouraged me to call ahead, so they can pull some things for me and have it all waiting.

Will I likely buy anything at J. Crew soon? I don't think so. Will I likely make a splurge at Hot Mama? Chances are also good. Will that money stay in mainly my community, with a local shop owner who obviously trains her employees to be very sensitive to customer's wishes? Definitely.

I often tout the wonders of shop local here, but I am also rather cheap frugal, and I can easily get seduced by lower prices or "free services" at larger places. What I was reminded of today is that the actual rewards of shopping in a place with service, where I can spend a little more money on a much more distinctive style that truly suits me, is an extremely worthwhile investment.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

3 Weeks From Today

It's the time of the year (and especially every 4th year) where things start to get really exciting. My labor union client is abuzz with energy. Lawn signs give a snapshot of the view of the residents. The majority of the calls on the land line are polls (or sometimes push-polls). I always mean to skip the debates and get sucked in instead.

I know some people hate this. Several of my Facebook friends inevitably make multiple posts about how much they hate the election period, choosing to focus on its divisiveness, its inherent challenge, its conflicts.

But me? I love it. I love seeing friends post about the things they are doing to affirm their beliefs and try to make the world a better place — volunteering on campaigns and at phone banks, participating in GOTV efforts, holding fundraisers, and giving, giving, giving of time, of money, of expertise, of opinion.

There's a lot of things I dislike about the current state of this country, and a lot of things I am disappointed in. I especially hate it that so much money gets spent on marketing politics, when those funds, put into programs, could solve many of the problems of this country in an instant. But if there's one slogan that I truly and passionately believe, it's that "There's nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed with what's right with America."

So please, you've got three weeks. Have that discussion. Go out and make the change you want to see in this world. And tell me about it.

(oh, and if you need voting advice? NO, and NO, and then Yes if you live in Saint Paul)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Invisible City

Yesterday afternoon, Patrick and I took 90 minutes out of our day to have one of the coolest, most incredible experiences I have had in recent memory.

We were some of the first to try out the Invisible City project. A virtual public art event, guided by smartphone and leading you through the North Loop area of Minneapolis, Invisible City sends you on an interactive mission through a city that you never knew existed — even if you know that neighborhood well.

Seriously, we're still talking about it. We're analyzing the experience, re-living it, virtually retracing our steps.

Go here, follow the instructions to the letter (after all, laser-accuracy is important to a mission like this and more importantly will keep you from fubar-ing your phone settings and getting lost in the middle), and go have this experience.

To tell you anything more about it would take away from the experience. Trust me.

I guarantee it will change your life.

Friday, September 14, 2012


After a Facebook post I made yesterday, I’ve been thinking a lot about how you get an ID card. If I didn’t have one, how would I get one?

In order to vote in Minnesota under the new amendment, you need a Minnesota Driver’s license, or state-issued identification card. You cannot vote with a passport, or any other kind of federally-recognized ID. So, you need to get a state card.

How do you get such an ID?

Here’s a link to the page — I looked for it so you don’t have to, it’s not exactly an intuitive Google search.

And here’s the list of approved identification documents. You will need one primary and one secondary document in order to apply for a state-issued ID.

The first bullet point is the most commonly stated one — a birth certificate.

Do you know where your birth certificate is?

I don’t know where mine is; I don’t know if I personally have ever had possession of it. And the hospital where I was born is closed. For Patrick (who does actually have his), it would be even harder to get a copy since many records in Louisiana, where he was born, are gone post-Katrina.

Alright, so I go to get my birth certificate, per these instructions.

I get together $26 to pay for the copy, I print the form, I get it notarized (all this takes about an hour away from my workday), I get ready to send it all in, until I come across this line of the instructions:

Enclose a photocopy of your valid driver's license or state issued identification card

See the problem here?

I’m not eligible for most of the other allowable forms of ID, such as a “secure unexpired Minnesota tribal identification card” or a “certified adoption certificate from a U.S. court.” In short, if I do not already have a state identification card for whatever reason, there’s a good chance I am out of luck for getting one now.

Say I do resolve this, I find my birth certificate and my passport, or secure other forms of identification, I go down and get the state ID card (taking more time out of my day, the wait when I was there last week was over 2 hours) and costing me another $17.25 (assuming I don’t need it expedited for another $20). So I am out between $17-50 in document costs, plus whatever hours I had to take off work.

How is this not a de facto poll tax?


With all this hassle and rigamarole and timing issues and the like, there is no way that you can say it’s not an impediment to require people to have an ID to vote. It’s been exhausting to even track down the information.

But here is where I get down to policy. I don’t have a Minnesota ID card, so I can’t speak to that.

What it comes down to for me, in relation to policy, it that my Minnesota driver’s license is just that — a license to operate a vehicle. It’s a specific legal document. It’s not meant to stand in for another kind of documentation (which is why I don’t even print my license number on my checks, the way many people do).

If you want to even begin the voter ID discussion with me, offer me a free, universal, and accessible form of identification that you propose to do that with.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


This plant grew spontaneously in the back yard at Summit (and is kind of taking it over). It kind of summarizes our summer — strange, unexpected, kind of beautiful, and overwhelming.

But more to the point, does anyone know what it is? (and is it edible?)

Saturday, September 1, 2012


It's moving in day at the small liberal arts college down the street. When I drove down to the hardware store this morning I saw groups of students sitting in circles on the lawns, harried-looking parents with maps pulling suitcases, and felt a general current of expectancy in the air. It was pretty idyllic.

I often wonder why I look back on college with such nostalgia, and why, 23 years after I have graduated, those moments all remain so vivid to me. I can remember so much from my classes, from the Arena Theatre, from parties, from dining halls and the Quad and the library and dorms and the laundry and our apartment on Belknap Street. This is even more remarkable considering that, like many of my fellow students, I studied abroad my junior year (cue even more memories), and lived off-campus when  I returned.

I'm really happy I chose Tufts. It was the ideal school for me — academically rigorous, but with a real-world element that encouraged me to learn and grow; maybe that's why the memories are so vivid. I'm proud that I still have many friends from those days. And I suppose the point is, that if I remember it so well, it's because it had a profound influence on me. It's the kind of influence I saw on those circle of students this morning.


On another nostalgic note, today would have been my mother's 74th birthday. Beatrix and I are sitting on the porch at the Summit house, and I think she would have approved of this perfect morning.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer Break

We've been trying to get every bit of fun into Beatrix's summer break that we can. Which has been really nothing short of disastrous for the actual work we are trying to fit in, but oh well...

Yesterday, she and I went to Fort Snelling in the morning, which was a great time. We saw the morning "parade" (hint: not exactly Mardi Gras), explored the various shops and quarters, learned about Dred Scott, played some kids' games, and had a great time. Did you know that soldiers in the fort in the 1820s ate bear stew and drank whiskey? Beatrix believes "They should have drunk less whiskey and more water. Water is better for you."

Today we spent about 6 hours at the Fair with Grandpa Kenny, and then after some naps went back for a few more hours tonight. I would call it a roaring success — we saw everything from the animals and endless trips to the Miracle of Birth Center to the Midway at night ("That lady just ate fire! For real!") to the kids' farm, to the Mr. Bubble booth, to the Kidway (Beatrix's first Big Girl ride in the haunted pirate house) to the Union Pavilion to the DNR pond to butterheads to Heritage Square and the International Marketplace .... well, you get the picture. Beatrix has developed a great love for seeing live music, so we spent a lot of time at the various stages. No surprise, I have determined I am a great traditionalist when it comes to food: mini donuts by the Grandstand (I tried others today and they were not as good), malts from the Dairy building, lemonade by the haunted house, cheese curds by Ye Old Mill. It was a 2-malt day, so I call that a win.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

All the Colors

Beatrix has her summer vacation from school this week, so we've been trying to do some special things. We went up to the cabin over the weekend, and today we explored Caponi Art Park for the first time, which was fantastic.

I am most amused, however, by the projects she comes up with. Today while on a work phone call, I narrowly rescued her from microwaving a tupperware container full of wax paper and broken crayons — she wanted to do "an experiment, like in school."

Instead, I talked her into dividing them by color and making crayon blocks. I had been warned that they would not work well, but they actually worked great, and she used them afterwards to draw some "very famous art." She's thrilled with them, and I'm pretty happy as well.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Lowry and Fringe

I spent the last day of being 44 in very pleasant pursuits.

This morning, we had birthday breakfast with my dad at The Lowry. I had wanted to go since they opened last year, and was not disappointed. The food was good, but it was the attention to detail that made it such a nice experience — the menu for Beatrix at her place with crayons tucked into it and a bowl of goldfish crackers, the stool in the bathroom so she could reach the sink, the fact that the owner walked around to check in on everyone. Well, really the best part was the company!

After having read a blog post from earlier this month, my dad got Beatrix a bug collection kit, so we had to go home and look for bugs. I'm fully expecting the beetles we caught in the roses to be free-roaming around the house by morning, because the door to the cage is not so secure. Plus I have to leave the light on because apparently beetles are afraid of the dark.

Tonight we went to see Mu Daiko at the Fringe, a great show that we all loved. Many of the pieces they played had been written by Mu founding Artistic Director Rick Shiomi, which I had not realized. It brought me back to sitting upstairs at Mixed Blood in a rehearsal room literally half a lifetime ago in a conversation with a panel on Asian-American theatre, where I first met Rick. A very good meditation as to where I am now.

Off to meditate some more and sit in the hot tub with a cocktail.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Gah, Birthday

My birthday is coming up Sunday. And normally I love birthdays, but this one is weighing heavily on me.

I'm turning 45 (there I go, spreading personal information all over the internets), and that seems like a hard milestone of an age. When I turned 40 somehow it was not so bad — I was still kind of numb over losing my mom, but I was pregnant, and it was an exciting time. This seems just...harder.

I am thinking a lot about projects in various houses, and making places. I'm thinking a lot about legacy, and what I leave behind. I am thinking a lot about philanthropy, and what I want to be doing and giving back. And I don't quite know how to measure those.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Summit Update

It’s been a summer where we have treated the house on Summit like a summer cabin — there for the weekend, spending the rest of the week at the Ashland house. The goal was to get to know the Summit house a little better in our terms, to make it lived in and sense how we feel about it. Though we’ve not yet come to any conclusions, we have been getting more comfortable with it.

It’s also been a lot of work to keep up and do projects at the two houses though, plus rehab the new one. Today we had meant to go out and do some things — Paws on Grand, the Dollar House, art fairs — but ended up instead spending the day doing yard work with the fantastic help of Baillie, the teenage daughter of old friends. Baillie is a phenomenal worker, and remarkably can get things done while Beatrix prattles at her a mile a minute and shows her things, including the grasshopper she collected which is now sitting in a jar by her bed. At the end of the day we had cleaned out the two incredibly overgrown front rose beds, plus done a lot of smaller projects and cleaned up. We celebrated by heading out to the SEIU Member Day at the Zoo.

Though we have not come to any conclusions about the Summit place yet, I am very happy so far with all the good we’ve been able to do with it. Several of our friends have been able to live there at transient points of their lives. We’ve hosted fundraisers. We’ve redone the bathroom and been on a tv show. It’s been on the SARPA garden tour. We’ve been able to share it with hundreds via the Friday Night Pool Parties (have you been yet? you should come). I had wanted to feature some friends’ art there this summer at weekly or monthly art shows, but just haven’t been able to face the logistics.

We’ve spent every Saturday cleaning through things, and have been able to pass on many of those items as well. It’s hard to do, but nice to know some of the items that we just don’t have room for in our lives can move on. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Better Than the Olympics

It's that time again — where people from all over the world come together and create something much bigger than themselves. No, not the Olympics (though let's face it, I might be watching those if we had a tv), but Songs of Hope.

The idea behind Songs of Hope is simple. Kids who come from all over the world to live together for six weeks, get to know each other, create music together, perform together, and grow individually and as a group, are the world's future peacemakers. To understand a culture, meet its people, share together, and create something bigger than just you.

This year, there were kids from over 10 different countries, from the US to Madagascar, Iraq to Vietnam, Russia to Columbia. They tour all over the state, from Bemidji to Waseca, in small towns where people may not have ever met someone from Turkey or Senegal. Their final performance last night at Boyd Parkwas absolutely amazing; they perform everything from songs and dance from their individual countries to "Hitsville USA" (with a strong NOLA bent).

Beatrix loves the shows, and I feel so lucky to be part of them. It's a tiny group, working hard on a shoestring budget — please consider supporting them and becoming part of their international family.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Needle and Thread

Beatrix has a security blanket that is her most prized possession. It's one of MY most prized possessions as well; my wonderful friend Kristin made it for her, with one side a quilt she pieced and the other cloth cleaned from an old housedress of my mom's. Every time I see it (which is often, Beatrix hauls it everywhere), it makes me think of my mom, and my friends.

The housedress side completely wore apart, and so for 6-8 weeks Beatrix has been walking around with an especially tattered blanket. This kind of came to a head the other morning, when Beatrix woke up at 4am with a terrible coughing fit and could not get back to sleep. Clearly, something had to be done.

Patrick gave me a beautiful sewing machine for my first Mother's day, but I honestly had not used it much. My new sewing area is on the 3rd floor, and it's very hot up there. I didn't have pink thread, I had forgotten how to wind a bobbin on the new machine, I did not have a cutting board, etc. There had been all sorts of excuses, but I really had to get this done.

So yesterday I set aside some time. I pressed and cut the cloth. I hooked up the sewing machine. I decided the black thread in the bobbin was fine, and indeed it was. And as soon as I found the treadle beneath my foot, I felt comfortable and at home again. It was an amazing feeling.

I washed the blanket and gave it to Beatrix when she got home that night. She was thrilled, and insisted on bringing it to the puppet show we attended. And I was amazed again at how fantastic it feels to do the right thing, and how often we put it off.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I Really Am Still Here

You noticed, huh? Almost all of July has gone by and not a word.

It's not that I don't love you.

JUly has been an insanely busy month. All of my crazy June deadlines got pushed off into July. I've been working like crazy, non-stop.

Thought I've always thought of summer as "my time," this July has been especially hard. It was 8 years ago that my mom was diagnosed with cancer and my world fell apart. This summer has been an especially hard reminder of that, as we have been cleaning through things at Summit.

We've had never-ending projects, at all three houses, and I feel stuck in quicksand of just getting nothing done.

In many ways it's been a good summer, full of pool parties and events. Some great nights with friends, especially this week.

But I feel a little weighted-down, overwhelmed, unable to keep up. Thus, the lack of blog posts, or enthusiasm in general.

I'll be back. But right now I think I just need some time, and some rest.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Tonight, Patrick had a reading from Enough at Subtext, a new bookstore that just opened last week underneath Nina's on Selby and Western. It's got a charming, funky vibe, and a lot of great titles facing out and encouraging me to read them. The space is one that was, until recently, the home of Common Good Books, which has now moved a little farther down at Grand and Snelling; I ordered a book recently and picked it up there and lingered for quite some time, enjoying the booky comfort of the space. And, if you know us, you know that our our own home is jam-packed with books, loosely organized by theme but not so much so that you can't go in search of one volume and get distracted by another one.

I feel, however, guiltily sad. Pretty much everything I read right now I download to my Kindle. I've even found myself downloading books I have in traditional form to the Kindle, because then they are very light and transportable and easy to read. I like throwing it in my purse so that I can read if I have a spare minute, and having the app on my phone for those truly unexpected times. Having the e-reader means I read a lot more than I would have, and a lot more diversity as well.

But bookstores have always been my de facto gathering place. I love the sense of community they give, and the way they encourage conversation — "Have you read this? What do you think of this?" A bookstore, to me, is the ultimate retail experience.

I don't know how to meld those two things, and I wish I did.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Butcher and the Boar

My dad reminded me today that I never got to Part 2 of the anniversary post ... dinner.

Since we were staying at the Covington, we had originally thought of eating in Saint Paul. But we had the whole evening at our disposal, and we had already tried to eat there once and really wanted to try it, so The Butcher and the Boar it was!

We arrived early due to reading the reservation confirmation email wrong, but that just gave us time to hang out in the lovely outdoor beer garden (I wonder what the space was in the building's previous use — parking?) The beer garden is actually a perfect complement to the restaurant, a little rustic and casual, and very spacious. With reservations so hard to get for the main space, it's a nice alternative. Different menu though (some yummy looking hand cut potato chips served in a bag), and a MUCH more reduced cocktail menu.

Plus, on the way through, you get to walk over the penny floor. Hard to beat that.

We were seated right on time, and then came the dilemma of what to order. Much of the menu was "meats for 2," which was obviously not going to fly. The people next to us had a "double pork chop," which was literally the size of a large piece of cake, gleaming with blueberries. Patrick can't wait to try it.

I had the lobster grilled cheese sandwich, which was a little less flavorful than expected, but still, lobster! Plus Fulton-battered fries. Patrick had 2 things from the charcuterie, a sausage and some ham. He reports both were incredible.

As I mentioned earlier, the outdoor cocktail menu was abbreviated, but Patrick could not have been happier with his mint julep or his old-fashioned, especially the former which came in a lovely engraved cup. My vodka lemonade was fine, but I would have preferred one of the other cocktails not available outside. Maybe next time order in the bar and carry it out?

In the end, I think the Butcher and the Boar is like seeing a really good movie a few weeks after it opens. Had you just gone on our own, you would have loved it. But by the time you get there, all you've heard is the hype and the talk and the build-up — and although it's great, it's not All That.

(Patrick, the carnivore, mentions that he thought it was "really good," so take my writing with a grain of salt. After all, it is named The Butcher and the Boar.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Covington Inn

Last week, we went out to celebrate our sixth anniversary. Our actual anniversary is not until this Friday, but we had a teacher from Beatrix's school who was willing to have a sleepover with her, so for the first time since B was born, we had a night away from her.

Back when I was just pregnant, I had won a Metro Magazine contest for an essay about places to go in the Twin Cities, and had selected the Covington as the most romantic B&B. The owner was so pleased she gave us a gift certificate to spend the night there, and we could finally redeem it!

The night was every bit as special as we had hoped. The inn (on a old tug boat) is incredibly lovely. Each room has its own individual charm, and the deck (above) is absolutely gorgeous. If you have never seen the view of Saint Paul from down by the river, make an effort to seek it out. It's wonderfully unusual and gives you a whole new perspective on the city.

We had dinner (more on that in a different post later), and then enjoyed wine and dessert while looking out at the city. Throughout the night, avery time I woke up, I could look out the window just next to the bed at that magic view. The next morning, the owner made us a delicious breakfast, and then we reluctantly returned to real life.

We're not the only ones who have the kind of lives where it is hard to get away. If you are one of my Twin Cities friends reading this (or if you are coming in for a visit), consider escaping here for one night (bonus points if you can do what we did, escape in the middle of the week and go into work a little late the next day). It's as close to magic as you can come.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Preschool Pics

I met my friend Mandy not quite a year ago, when she took my profile picture at a blogging conference. I know a lot of wonderful photographers who create exceptional art, but I had never met anyone who captured photographic portraits the way she does.

This year she did the preschool portraits for Beatrix's school. See what I mean?

Do yourself a favor and get over to her site and book her. You won't be sorry.

Thursday, May 31, 2012


I'll admit that I am hard on knives. I've reformed from bad habits like using them as substitute screwdrivers and putting them in the dishwasher, but I don't sharpen them with any regularity and my knife-use skills are likely sub-par. The 7" Wusthof Santoku knife is my most-used item, if only because I can be reasonably sure it's appropriate for most uses.

So I was a little bummed out when it got a large chip at the end of the handle, right above the rivet. Our 6th anniversary is coming up, for which the "modern" gift is "iron," so I decided to get Patrick a new one. Yesterday, I headed over to Eversharp knives in NE Minneapolis.

I walked in with the old knife so I could compare. The nice young lady who came out to help me walked over, took one look at my knife, and grabbed a shiny new one, presenting it to me free of charge, although I don't think I had purchased the original knife there. "We want to be sure you're happy with the experience," she smiled. "Everything we sell here is guaranteed."

Those of you familiar with me know that I remember customer service experiences, both good and bad, for a long time. With that one move, Eversharp guaranteed themselves a customer for life.

Even if the customer service experience is not important to you, I would recommend checking them out. Their prices are excellent, and they have just re-organized and replenished the stock, so they have a lot of new items. The salesperson also mentioned they have their tent sale coming up June 7-10 (I think).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Happy Hydrangea

From my gardening posts lately, you can see what's on my mind.

Today I broke down and bought myself a somewhat expensive plant.

I've always wanted hydrangeas by the front steps. First I wanted tree hydrangeas, but they are expensive. Then, when the Endless Summer varieties first came out, I wanted those, but now I have them at Summit and they are kind of underwhelming. Eventually, I did have a small white hydrangea there, that Dale Bachman gave me as a thank you for hosting his daughter's wedding at Jeune Lune.

That hydrangea lasted for years and made me very happy, but this spring it just did not come up. I don't know if it was the lack of snow cover, or the work on the porch, but it was just gone.

So I dithered for awhile, and priced them out at several stores, and tried to see if I could move something else into the place, and then I finally gave up, went to Frattalone's today with a coupon, and bought the Twist and Shout hydrangea that I wanted. I carefully prepared the hole with coffee grounds I had saved, and got it right in the ground.

Doesn't it look great?


Patrick also got the yard leveled off, and so we can finally plant grass. I got new doormats for Mother's Day, and the beds are generally planted. If I just get the front bench painted, it will all look great!